Book Image

Job Interview Success for Introverts

By : Robert McIntosh
Book Image

Job Interview Success for Introverts

By: Robert McIntosh

Overview of this book

Table of Contents (8 chapters)

Written communications

Introverts tend to excel at written communications because it allows them to take time to formulate their ideas. This is where you might be more comfortable, compared to the verbal communications side of your marketing communications. Of the four documents we'll look at, the CV is the most common example of written communications, and the component many people focus on the most. However, don't neglect the cover letter, approach letter, and LinkedIn profile.

The CV

As mentioned in the preface, introverts are frequently found to have a strong preference for writing and, therefore, do it extremely well. But in order to write a powerful CV, you must research the position by reading the job description and determining the major requirements. A detailed job description should not intimidate you; rather, it should give you the information you need to construct a powerful CV. Your research will also be necessary to write cover letters and approach letters. Introverts are great researchers because they are patient, persistent, and focused on their goal of creating a powerful CV. (Because the CV is your most important job-search document, I'll spend more time addressing it than the other documents.)

The most important elements of the CV


No one ever reads a [CV] unless they have to; they have to because a specific job has been titled and carefully defined, a salary range has been agreed upon, the position has been budgeted and approved, and the funds released.

 --–Martin Yate, Knock 'em Dead Resumes

Contrary to what many believe, no one likes reading a pile of CVs. Imagine having to read 75 CVs—no, simply imagine reading 25 CVs—to determine which eight people you'll invite for an interview. Before long you'll want to push the CVs aside and get back to what really excites you about work. This is how most hiring managers feel; they'd rather be doing something else and will find any reason to not read another CV. But reading CVs is an important aspect of their job because the only way they'll know who to invite for an interview is by reading these CVs, yours included. The most pressing need they have at the moment is filling a position with someone like you.

When I ask senior- and mid-level jobseekers in my workshop if they enjoyed reading CVs as part of their job, at least 98 percent said they didn't. They confirmed that the majority of the CVs were poorly formatted, badly written, failed to hit the mark in terms of their needs, and probably worst of all, people sometimes lied about their past. This paints a bleak picture of reading CVs, but this is my intention; you have to make your CV more enjoyable to read by doing the following:

  • Making your CV easy to read

  • Tailoring your CV to a particular job

  • Prioritizing statements

  • Highlighting your accomplishments

  • Making it the proper length

Making your CV easy to read

As we just mentioned, employers receive more CVs than they'd prefer to read, so readability is one of their main requirements in a CV. This means that paragraphs should not exceed three or four lines; they should not resemble lengthy paragraphs in a Charles Dickens novel. Important points you need to make should be easy to grasp at a very quick glance because something you may not have been told is that the first read of a CV is a 6 to 10 second scan of your document.

Use strong action verbs at the beginning of each paragraph to grab the employer's attention. Words such as "developed," "initiated," "directed," "created," "engineered," and "motivated" are a few powerful verbs you can use. Sprinkling bold text in your CV's sentences is another way to make it easier for employers to identify important strategic words and phrases, namely accomplishments you want to highlight.

Bullet points also make it easier for the reviewer of your CV to capture essential information. However, try not to write a CV that consists entirely of bullet points. Doing this will make it appear more like a grocery list which may blur duty statements with accomplishments. A contrast between bullets and paragraphs gives your CV a more appealing look.

Tailoring your CV to a particular job

This is something many people fail to do because they don't take the time to research the job's requirements. As an introvert, you will employ your ability to focus and research skills to create a unique CV, not a one-size-fits-all document that doesn't consider the needs and problems the employer is facing. Make sure you make note of the major requirements and address them, demonstrating your qualifications for that specific position. Writing a tailored CV takes more work because you'll rewrite the performance profile and in some cases the work history, but it's worth the extra effort. Remember that employers are not terribly excited about reading a slew of CVs. This will cause them to take note of the extra work you've put into constructing your CV. It will make reading your CV more enjoyable. As mentioned before, it will nicely set you up for the interview.

Prioritize statements

Readability and constructing a unique CV are important, but they aren't the only important considerations. In addition, you must show that you understand the needs of the employer by covering the position's requirements in order of importance. For example, if you ascertain, by carefully dissecting the job description, that verbal and written communications are the top skills, you will list them as your top qualifications in your performance profile. Customer service is second in importance, so you list this skill as your second qualification. Creating web content is third, so you'll show your proficiency in developing web content. You get the point. Further, you will continue prioritizing statements throughout your CV, including your work history. Don't be concerned that you'll have to totally construct a new work history; it may only require rearranging a few bullet points here and there. Introverts pay attention to details and are meticulous in their approach to writing, so this third rule of writing a CV will not be difficult to master.

Highlighting your accomplishments

Perhaps the most important feature of a strong CV is the abundance of relevant quantified accomplishments. These speak volumes to employers who are trying to separate the ordinary from the extraordinary. Employers are no longer impressed with duty statements; they want to see how job candidates have increased revenue, saved costs and time, improved productivity, solved problems, and other types of accomplishments. It's best when stating your accomplishments that you quantify them by using numbers, dollars, and percentages. This proves your assertions in a clear and factual way. For instance, you may write, "Saved costs by training staff on accounting software." This sounds fine, but there are still questions to be answered. Alternatively, and more effectively, you could state your accomplishment like this: "Saved $12,500 in outside training costs by voluntarily training staff on new accounting software." The first example of an accomplishment fails to impress, while the second one demonstrates quantified value and paints a complete picture.

Not only must you be able to write about your quantified accomplishments; you must also talk about them while networking and at the interview. Introverts have the time to think about them and explain them through their CV but must also commit them to memory when it's time to speak about them.

Proper length

In addition to readability, tailoring your CVs, prioritizing statements, and highlighting accomplishments, you must consider the length of your CV. This again makes the job of reading many CVs easier on the employer. Generally speaking, two pages should be the maximum length for a CV. A one-page CV may be preferred, but you don't want to leave out important information by writing a one-pager. As long as you can capture the employer's attention in the first third of your CV, the employer will read your two-page CV. People with less than five years of work experience may be better off writing a one-page CV, rather than attempting to fill it with fluff or irrelevant information.


Make a note

Some of my executive-level jobseekers submit a one-page, accomplishment-based CV to the employer, and make their four-page CV available if called for.

The cover letter

We've looked at the most important document you'll write for the job search. Now let's address the cover letter. Writing this document will require as much research and dedicated alone time as the CV takes. Because of their preference for writing, introverts generally don't see this as as much of a burden as extroverts might. Researching the position and company is a necessity because the cover letter must be tailored to each job for which you apply.

You may have heard that the cover letter is not read by employers. This is partly true, as recruiters, hiring managers, and HR are bogged down by a stack of CVs; but experts attest that at least 50 percent of hiring authorities still read cover letters. Why do they read cover letters? Hiring authorities read cover letters because they provide a more expansive picture of the job candidate. Cover letters tell a story that can't be completely told by the CV. Another thing you should consider before choosing not to send a cover letter is that if you don't send one, you'll be one of the few who do not. This will not bode well on your dedication and interest in the job.

Have you ever been asked, "Why do you want to work at this company?" or some derivative of this question? I'm sure you have. The cover letter is a perfect place to explain this. Also, the cover letter explains why you want to take on the responsibility of the position. In other words, the cover letter shows your enthusiasm for the position and working for the company.

Another purpose of the cover letter is to highlight relevant accomplishments found on your CV. The word "relevant" is noteworthy because relevant accomplishments tell employers not only what you've done in the past, but they also tell them what you will do for them in the future. This is particularly true if you have multiple relevant accomplishments. Take an employer, for example, whose main concern is increasing accuracy in the accounting department. Your four examples of how you've accomplished this will be proof of what you've done in the past, and shows what you're capable of doing in the future.

The approach letter

The two most important documents you'll send to an employer in response to an advertised position are the CV and cover letter. But what about the jobs that aren't advertised, the ones that exist in the Hidden Job Market (HJM)? It's estimated that nearly 75 percent to 80 percent of all jobs are unadvertised. Smart jobseekers find those jobs through networking.

This is where the approach letter comes in. This document is not often used, which is a shame, as it's a great networking tool for introverts. Here's why the approach letter is not often used: the majority of jobseekers are pursuing the 25 percent of jobs that are advertised. In other words, only the smart jobseekers are using approach letters.

Approach letters are sent to companies that haven't advertised a position. It is a knock on the door, but a knock on the door that introverts feel more comfortable with. The approach letter is only sent to companies for which you'd like to work. You are taking your job search into your own hands because you're not reacting to advertised positions—which, again, most jobseekers are pursuing. You're being more proactive, and this is a good thing.

The approach letter appeals to introverts because it's a way for them to network by using their written communication skills, precluding the need for them to pick up the phone and make a call to the companies. Extroverts are more inclined to pick up the phone or even visit the company; however, remember that companies these days have gatekeepers (a receptionist, say) who are instructed to turn all jobseekers away. Who do you send your approach letter to, you may wonder. Generally, you'll send it to someone who will take notice, such as a hiring manager or someone higher up, say the president of the company. By no means should you send an approach letter to HR. They will simply place your letter in the circular file cabinet.

You may have guessed by now that the approach letter will require you to do research on the organization and position in which you're interested. You must give the recipient of your letter a reason to invite you in for a discussion. Show them your knowledge and appreciation for the company, as well as your related experience and accomplishments, of course.

The LinkedIn profile

Resembles the CV

It is widely believed that LinkedIn is the best, most professional online networking tool. LinkedIn has more than 300 million members and is growing at a rate of two new members a second. Therefore, you should join the LinkedIn craze and give yourself a chance to be found by employers who are looking for people with your talent. To call the LinkedIn profile a part of your written communications is accurate because you are, in fact, writing a profile which resembles the CV…to an extent. Let me elaborate on this point. At first you may want to copy and paste the content of your CV, and then modify it so it is a networking document.

An effective LinkedIn profile will contain many of the elements of a CV, such as a compelling Summary, a descriptive Employment section, and a complete Education section. But other features of the LinkedIn profile turn it into more of a networking tool than the CV. For example, in many countries a photo is not included on the CV, whereas members of LinkedIn are highly encouraged to include one. This gives LinkedIn more of a personal touch than the CV, and many people prefer it over the CV for this personal touch. There are other components of the profile that differ from the CV, such as the Media section (your online portfolio), Skills and Expertise and Endorsements, the Recommendations section, and Interests.

Requires constant activity

To be successful, introverts must be active on LinkedIn and venture beyond creating their online CV. They must post updates, send direct messages, participate in groups, respond to updates, and so on. Too often LinkedIn members create their profile and then wait for visitors to come to them. When my workshop attendees ask me how many updates are enough, I tell them at least one a day is the minimum amount. This seems like a lot to them, but I go through an exercise during the workshop where I'll post three updates within five minutes. The LinkedIn profile is static, unlike your CV which should be tailored to each job, so communicating with your network is essential to staying in their minds.

Appeal to introverts

Introverts may find solace in LinkedIn because of the hours a day they can spend on writing their profile and posting updates. This activity can be seen as the introverts' way of corresponding with their connections. More to the point, LinkedIn allows them to engage in online networking without having to reach out and speak to their connections, if they so desire. This is a mistake. While you may connect with hundreds or thousands of people on LinkedIn, they don't become bona fide connections unless you personally reach out to them by calling or even getting together with them for coffee or lunch. Extroverts are comfortable with reaching out and meeting with people, even connections they've met for the first time on LinkedIn.

Introverts should follow their counterparts' lead when it comes to personal networking, as personal networking is the best method to use to get to the interview. Allow me to repeat: you can develop your online network to include hundreds or thousands of connections, but they will not be bona fide connections unless you reach out to them in a personal manner.